Superintendent: Lynn schools might not reopen

This article was published 3 year(s) and 1 month(s) ago.

LYNN — Although schools are slated to reopen on May 4, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said he does not expect the district’s students to return to classes this year.

With the coronavirus outbreak continuing to shut down much of American life, Tutwiler and his administrative team are in the process of developing a remote learning plan that will be implemented on April 27 and extend through the end of the school year. 

To support that plan, the Lynn School Committee approved the superintendent’s undisclosed budget transfer request last week, which will allow school administration to purchase computers for students. 

“The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty,” said Tutwiler, quoting former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 

“Make no mistake about it, this is a very difficult time in which we find ourselves, but there’s also an opportunity, and that opportunity comes by way of bills we don’t have to pay at this time, or expenses we do not have to face because school is not in session.” 

For instance, part of the budget transfer is coming from the substitute teacher line, as subs are not needed during school closures and are therefore not being paid, Tutwiler said. 

The funds will be used to get devices to students as quickly as possible, Tutwiler said, but there won’t be enough computers for everyone. Students with the highest need and greatest urgency, such as seniors graduating this year, and students taking AP courses or early college courses, will be prioritized, he said. 

“This is my fifth year in the district,” said Tutwiler. “I don’t recall this happening over the past five years. We’re pretty tight and pretty thoughtful around the budget, but I think we have a unique opportunity to do something good for kids.”  

Other school districts, including Boston and Lawrence, have already been providing Chromebooks to students to close their technology gaps, but Tutwiler had been hesitant to do the same in Lynn because teachers had lacked access to those devices. 

To bridge that gap, he said about 200 computers were distributed to staff last week through a loan program, which will allow teachers to properly engage with students on school programming. 

Although School Committee members supported the plan to provide students with computers, they raised concerns about kids who would still have trouble completing their online schoolwork because they lack access to an Internet connection. 

Tutwiler said the connectivity issue is a difficult problem to solve, but cited two surveys that the school district conducted, which showed that most families that responded have an Internet connection, but lack a computer. 

Mayor Thomas M. McGee, committee chairman, said the city is exploring companies that are interested in creating Internet hot spots to increase connection access. However, committee member Jared Nicholson noted collective hot spots can be expensive. 

“Do we have ready-made solutions around connectivity issues?” said Tutwiler. “No, we don’t. We think our first step is to get our devices here and fill the gaps where they exist.” 

Students lacking an Internet connection or access to a computer has been an issue that’s been discussed often since schools were first ordered closed in mid-March. 

Although school is not in session, students have been expected to complete online enrichment-based activities and resources. The material is not being graded, but students have been urged to complete the work so that they can continue learning during the extended break, Tutwiler said. 

With the extension of the cancellation, Tutwiler said the approach has shifted to developing a comprehensive remote learning plan for the remainder of the school year, which ends on June 24.

He said the plan, which will begin on April 27, will consist of interdisciplinary projects anchored in common themes district-wide. The work will feature the themes of community, adaptation and reflection. A framework is being developed for a student’s school day, which will include physical activity and activity related to the arts, Tutwiler said. 

All materials will be posted on the school’s website, but Tutwiler said students will be able to access the resources without technology. The materials will be available for pick-up at the meal distribution sites set up at four of the district’s schools. 

“This crisis has disproportionately affected our most vulnerable students,” said Tutwiler. “Equity and our core value of inclusiveness must be a core strategy of our planning. This is a very interesting time in which we find ourselves. Staff continues to work hard and (we) are committed to student learning.” 

The School Committee also approved the administration’s request to donate a vast amount of the district’s surplus health materials, including face masks, gloves, protective gowns, hand sanitizer, wipes and thermometers to Lynn Community Health Center.  


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